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Army Stand Wins Support

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SUVA (Pasifik Nius): The Fiji military won new allies yesterday after its promise to uphold the decision of the Court of Appeal on Justice Anthony Gates' Constitution ruling, the Fiji Times reports.

But the country's leading daily newspaper attacked the military stand in an editorial, warning it to "stay out of politics".

In a front-page news report, the newspaper said political parties and non-government organisations were quick to praise the stance.

"The Citizens Constitution Forum described the stand as courageous and principled," the paper reported.

"On Monday, an army delegation told cabinet troops would uphold the law after the Appeals Court decision.

"Officers suggested the use of foreign assistance if the army was unable to handle the situation."

The newspaper quoted Fijian Association Party leader Adi Kuini Speed as saying: "The nation's prayers have been answered and I thank God that we now see a way forward for Fiji."

Fijian [indigenous] political parties and provincial councils, however, were critical of the army.

The newspaper said the parties would meet today to discuss the issue.

The parties pledged support for the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, and urged the military not to meddle with politics.

Lomaiviti Provincial Council chairman Nimilote Bulamaibau said the army's action was discourteous and disrespectful.

Bulamaibau said he was surprised with the army's actions considering the precarious situation that still existed in the country.

"Everything is still shaky. I am surprised at them, especially when they were not expected at the meeting," Bulamaibau said.

In an editorial, the Fiji Times criticised the military's stance, asking whether it wanted to "scare" the interim regime into submission.

"If the military continues to stick its nose into political affairs it will succeed only in undermining public confidence in the authorities, interim or otherwise.

"In turn, investors will lose confidence, jobs will be lost and everyone suffers.

"That should not be allowed to happen."

But the newspaper also said the military were owed a "tremendous debt" by all communities for their handling of the George Speight rebellion.

"Their decisive and swift response to an attempted barracks uprising in November showed how reliable the troops are," the Fiji Times said.


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